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THE AMERICAN 

JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 



Volume VI MARCH, I9OI numbers 



THE ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY. 

PASSING OF THE CONTRACT THEORY. 

The organic theory of society is entertained by nearly every 
serious thinker of the present time. Everyone seems ready to 
declare, although often with some reservations, that society is 
an organism ; in other words, that man and nature are one, and 
so, among many other things, that no device or institution of 
human life is free from conditions of change. Indeed, not 
merely in political science, but in the thought of our time at 
large, the word "organism" is getting to be used as a key to 
all the mysteries. Simply, a new fetichism is in possession of 
us, but the forerunner perhaps of a thoroughly enlightened wor- 
ship ; and, in consequence, we have a stern, exacting duty to the 
thought which underlies it. Politically, we feel the need of 
knowing, as directly and as accurately as possible, just what the 
organic theory of society implies, what conditions and relations 
and activities, what natural or developed interests, it involves 
society in. Not, Is society an organism? — for that is a ques- 
tion that looks only to some mere analogy — but as more direct 
and as deeper, What is an organic society ? 

Several approaches to this question are open. Thus it would 
be pertinent, not to say intensely interesting, to make a psycho- 
logical — or sociological — study of an organic society, dealing 
specifically with the nature of the social will and the social con- 
sciousness ; or to take the standpoint, not of psychology or 

577 



578 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

sociology, but of biology, so given nowadays to the doctrines 
of evolution ; or, again, to confine the attention to industrial 
organization; or, finally, to examine Christianity and religious 
experience generally from the standpoint of the organic theory; 
but no one of these approaches to the question in hand is now 
intended. What I propose is a historical study — historical, too, 
in the narrower sense, in the sense chiefly of man's development 
under law and government. 1 

The organic theory, with reference to its legal implications, 
has been supplanting and fulfilling the famous theory of the 
social contract, the theory of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, 
peculiar to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but sur- 
viving far into the nineteenth, if not into the twentieth. The 
importance of this contract theory has been very great, and 
conspicuously in our own history. The minds, for example, of 
those who wrote and who ratified our American constitution 
were thoroughly imbued with it, and it has shaped many of our 
political actions since, the great controversies about state rights, 
as well as about individual rights, often being inspired by it, 
and the constantly recurring idolatry of the constitution being 
also referable to it. In our proposed historical study, then, the 
contract theory is a natural starting-point. We have first to 
see exactly what it was, and then to consider how its inner logic, 
by dint of the conditions and distinctions that were necessary 
to it and that it brought to consciousness, has led inevitably, 
although perhaps for a time unwittingly, to the organic theory; 
and, in the end, if the great practical movements of our political 
evolution do not come to mind as effective illustrations, if our 
study of the rise of the organic theory with the passing of the 
contract theory does not bring some light to bear even upon 
the central problems of political life today, then, in part at 
least — yes, in large part — our study will have been a failure. 

As regards the names of the two theories, it is worth remark- 
ing, in passing, that they are not exactly coordinate, referring, 

*In a recent book, Philosophy of History (Ann Arbor, 1899), especially chaps, 
vi-viii, I have examined the conception of an organic society from some of these 
standpoints, and in an article, " Evolution and Immortality," published in the Monist, 
April, 1900, from the special standpoint of an interpretation of Christianity. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY S79 

in the case of the earlier, to the origin and support of society, 
and, in the case of the later, to society's inner nature ; but this 
difference only indicates how in general at the present time the 
interest in origins, as well as in destinies, is giving way to the 
interest in character. Today we are not much disposed to think 
of anything as actually made or created — as coming suddenly 
into being. Things simply are, or, if their making is to be con- 
sidered at all, being evolved, they actually participate in their 
own making, so that, again, what they are, not when or how 
they arose, is the living question about them. 

Briefly and specifically, what I wish to show is : ( I ) that the 
contract theory, like any theory in history which might be men- 
tioned, has quite outgrown itself, the contract that makes society 
proving to be only a political philosopher's name for the funda- 
mental lawfulness of nature or — as the same thing — for the 
natural respect of man, a rational being, for law, for law as such ; 
(2) that through this deepening of the conception of the social 
contract the organic and thoroughly naturalistic theory has 
been evolved; and (3) that — particularly in response to the 
doctrine of equality among men — the result in both theory and 
practice has been greater unity of man with himself, as in the 
character of the individual of today; greater unity of man with 
his fellow, notably in the development of a conscious inter- 
nationalism ; and greater unity of man with nature in indus- 
trialism. 

As given by Thomas Hobbes in 165 1, the social-contract 
theory assumes, in the first place, that a formal contract, for 
example the American constitution, creates a social or political 
unity which has had no existence before the enactment itself. 
By the enactment or acceptance of the contract a group of sepa- 
rate individuals, whether already formed political bodies or 
single persons, is transformed into a unity, that is, a society or 
state. As Hobbes said, in substance, a condition of absolute 
individualism and warfare is changed — as if by magic — to a 
condition of social integrity and peace. But, secondly, this 
theory includes also the doctrine of "natural rights," of rights 
as the independent inalienable possessions of individuals, the 



580 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

contract consisting in such surrender or adjustment of rights as 
may be required for harmonious living, or the peace which ensues 
being that of armed neutrality rather than anything more posi- 
tive or more genuine. And, thirdly, under the contract theory, 
if to be taken literally, the social life resulting is bound to be 
something imposed from without upon the life that is natural, it 
is supernatural or extranatural, the social self and the individual 
self being so absolutely apart ; and, in consequence, its enabling 
compact has a peculiar sanctity, being an end in itself, not a 
means, and so properly subject neither to breach nor to amend- 
ment. In short, then, the contract creates society ; the individ- 
uals entering into society are obliged to get out of themselves, 
actually surrendering inalienable rights ; and the social life ensu- 
ing is formal or artificial or external. 

So runs the contract theory of Thomas Hobbes. Its great 
worth is in its distinction between the legal man, the man under 
the law, and the natural man ; its great defect, in that no law 
in the relations of men is recognized save such as the enacted 
contract establishes, the natural man being lawless. To distin- 
guish, however, between the legal and the natural man was to 
imply also a distinction between the visible sovereign and the 
sovereignty, only the sovereignty being legally supreme ; and, 
again, between the government and the state ; but these all-impor- 
tant distinctions get their proper recognition and transfigura- 
tion only with the final emergence, which is to be indicated 
here, of the organic theory from its contract chrysalis. To this 
final outcome both Locke and Rousseau made valuable contri- 
butions. 

Thus Locke, recognizing a contradiction in Hobbes' theory, 
in the original individualism and warfare, and in the subsequent 
social unity and peace, secured only through surrender of 
inalienable rights, refused to think of the contract as actually 
creating society. For him, indeed, society is original or natural, 
its component individuals being rational, and so subject to an 
organizing law that is superior to any enacted contract. The con- 
tract, then, creates only the government, not society ; being for 
the latter, not creative, but only mediative, or not constitutive, 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 58 1 

but only definitive. Hobbes, recognizing no social law but posi- 
tive or enacted law, and so condemning the natural man to a con- 
dition of sheer lawlessness, could not appreciate this distinction 
between government and society, or between legality and reason ; 
but obviously this distinction was a necessary result of his 
philosophy, particularly of his warfare in a state of nature. It 
was necessary simply for the following reason. Society — and 
this means law or unity in human life — is quite as truly a condition 
as a consequence of warfare among individuals. Moreover, the very 
motive to contract and social unity cannot arise without some basis in 
reality, since men must be in a condition of society before they can will 
its establishment or expression. Locke accordingly, as if realizing 
this, found reason, that is, respect for law, in natural man, and so 
denied creation of society to any mere contract. 

For reasons that need no mention here it often happens that 
a change of emphasis occurs in the understanding of a theory. 
The conditions of history make this necessary. Thus, reading 
the earlier followers of Locke, and in fact reading even Locke 
himself, one is not unlikely to miss the exact character and the 
importance of his departure from the standpoint of Hobbes. 
Necessities of thinking did, indeed, lead Locke to recognize law 
and society as a condition of the state of nature ; but more 
practical affairs — the political emergencies of the time at home 
and abroad — induced an emphasis, in his own statement of his 
views as well as in the earlier interpretations of them from others, 
upon the value of positive contract to political organization. So 
true is this that Locke has again and again been interpreted 
quite as if it were Hobbes that wrote the Treatises on Government, 
and doubtless the real author must bear his share of the blame ; 
but, nevertheless, in his philosophy the reality of law and society 
in nature is definitely recognized, and with the clearer vision, the 
better perspective, that time always brings, the value of this to 
political theory is made apparent. Thus governments, Locke 
himself contended, are formed in order to secure an impartial, 
impersonal, objective law and an effective execution of the same ; 
but also, with little if any reading between his lines, we find that 
in nature even selfish man has a respect for law ; and we know 



582 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

that respect for law, however clouded, is not without impartiality; 1 
so that by Locke's own evidence the formation of government is 
only the better and fuller expression of something already in the 
natural or wholly primitive life of society. In like manner 
primitive people pass from such natural implements as stones to 
tools which are carefully devised, the new devices being inspired 
only by the nature-implements. What tool is not used in its 
own making? Government, then — and this even according to 
Locke, albeit to the Locke of our more modern emphasis — is 
original or natural, and is involved in its own making. Remem- 
ber, too, that, in addition to his recognition of law and society in 
nature, Locke declared that the "state of nature" is not left 
behind with political organization, but remains with society 
always, being often exemplified both in domestic affairs and, 
conspicuously, in international relations ; and that, sometimes in 
small matters, sometimes in large, complete reversion to it takes 
place ; and finally, in so many words, that the organizing contract is 
always amendable. Similarly, the usefulness or effectiveness of 
devised tools depends on the same force, the same natural 
power, that has been previously applied through cruder or 
wholly natural objects. So, again, for Locke the social contract, 
as was said, is really mediative, not creative ; and even to assert, 
as above I did allow myself to assert, yielding to the viewpoint 
of the earlier emphasis, that the contract creates, not society, 
but only the government, is misleading. Government itself is 
original, belonging to the " state of nature," because the con- 
sciousness of law is original. Indeed, government and society 
are to be distinguished only as the devised and the natural tool, 
except that society, as under the natural or original government 
of the law of reason, is commonly called the state. The state, 
then, to keep up the comparison, is the natural tool ; and the 
distinction between government and state is in a sense a fickle 
and elusive one, for it depends, not on two separate things, but 
on the moving or evolving relation of things that interact or 

"Compare Adam Smith's doctrine of sympathy, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments 
(1759), that no man ever does or ever can judge another without sympathy, without 
regard to an "impartial spectator." 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 583 

that are inseparable, and even mutually inclusive. Like the 
more general life and consciousness of which, in fact, they are 
but special expressions, they are at once conditions and results 
of each other. 

To reword a little what has been said, the consciousness of 
law, or — as the same thing — the possession of reason, which 
Locke attributes to man even in the " state of nature," is simply 
inseparable from the fact of government, since it implies, not 
only respect for authority, but also embodiment of authority. 
The consciousness of law can be no mere subjective conceit ; its 
own reality rests on that of objective necessity, even of so-called 
physical compulsion. Locke, then, was right enough in his 
attacks on Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, in so far as Filmer 
referred all embodied political authority to Adam and the direct 
line of succession from Adam ; but he failed properly to realize 
that, according to his own philosophy, the general principle, 
which Filmer saw only in a special and somewhat artificial case, 
and which, accordingly, was perverted even to the point of 
absurdity, is perfectly sound — the principle, namely, that 
embodiment of authority, of an objective impartial law or rea- 
son, is natural, being, like reason itself, no mere ensuing result 
of human experience, but quite as truly an antecedent condition 
of human experience. 

But I pass to Rousseau. Rousseau is with Locke in distin- 
guishing between the government and society or the state, but 
for the great Genevan the state, not the government, is pro- 
duced by the real, the original social contract; and yet — again 
in the light of a more modern emphasis — with the following 
very significant result : To all intents and purposes the contract 
is only a formal thing in Rousseau's theory, as if only a useful 
standpoint or fiction. Similarly monarchy, notably in demo- 
cratic England, and divine creation as a doctrine of rational 
theology, and in science the relation of cause and effect, have 
become only standpoints or fictions, or say — using a somewhat 
technical term in philosophy — "categories," that is, validating 
principles, instead of accepted or actually experienced facts. 
Modern thought has teemed with fictions or validating principles ; 



584 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

the survivals of things once held to be quite substantial, but 
now regarded and used only as formal principles ; and Rous- 
seau's contract, as I conceive it, is really one of them ; not a 
positive legal instrument, enacted at some particular time, but 
the validating principle of all law ; in short, only Rousseau's 
fictitious way of saying, with Locke, that even in a state of 
nature man is rational and sanctions law and society. Of 
course, to make the contract to which society owes its exist- 
ence only a formal principle was to make existing governments 
totter. 

Bluntschli objects to Rousseau's theory, among other reasons, 
because "history does not afford a single instance in which a 
state has really been brought about by contract between indi- 
viduals," 1 and this objection, it may be added, troubled Locke, 
who must be confessed, in view of his virtually making govern- 
ment natural or original, to have met it very feebly. 2 Bluntschli's 
criticism, however, although plausible enough, is not altogether 
fair, either to Rousseau or to the contract philosophers generally. 
Rousseau's conception of nature, of the will of all and of the con- 
tract itself that only makes a people a people, simply turns 
individuals, society, and positive contract into sheer forms, so that 
an exemplifying instance in positive history is neither needed 
nor to be expected. Bluntschli himself admits 3 that the contract 
theory "obtained a fatal authority at the time of the French 
Revolution." So it did. The Revolution, however, sprang from 
the recognition of contract, individual and society as artificial or 
formal. Hence the cry, "Return to nature!" — to nature, where 
men are equal and where law or contract is only formal or 
quasi, capable of any content or substance that a changing 
experience may present, and so absolute and inviolable only as 
a principle, being subject to amendment without limit so soon as 
any specific character, any applied form, is given it. And when 
in history has a pure principle been positively and purely exem- 
plified ? A pure principle is invisible ; it is not one of the sepa- 
rate things of time. 

1 Theory of the State, p. 295 (Macmillan, 1895). 

3 Treatises of Government, Book II, chap. viii. ' Op. cit., p. 294. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 585 

Also, as bearing on the same point, it should be remembered 
that in general the consciousness of Rousseau's time was "phe- 
nomenalistic" in an unusual degree. This term is perhaps over- 
technical, but it means that names did not necessarily refer to 
realities ; that in political science and, of course, also in general 
literature and in religion, and in all forms of thought, men were 
actually saying one thing and thinking — or perhaps I should say 
feeling — another. In short, they were everywhere dealing in 
fictions. D'Alembert, for example, had his human machines ; 
Condillac, his animated statue ; Diderot and Buffon and others, 
their conceptions of like character. They have been said not 
to have gone back of their consciousness, and truthfully enough, 
for they could allow themselves to speak only after the analo- 
gies of things actually manifest ; but they were by no means 
unaware of their limitations, and Rousseau probably less so than 
any other among them. They were not blind to their fictions, 
as if, forsooth, one ever could be serious in arguing to automatism 
and fatalism from a knowledge of natural law. Knowledge sets 
free. Accordingly not only did they have a new wine in their 
old bottles, but also they were drinking it out. Thus, specifi- 
cally, the social-contract theory was only one effort among many 
in the protestant movement, the reaction against absolutism ; and, 
like all first efforts in reaction, it adopted the general standpoint, 
and so fell into the sin or error of its opponent. It opposed the 
divine right of kings, but treated the social contract as if it too 
possessed some peculiar indwelling supernatural power, going 
even to such an extreme as to arouse and justify the abusive 
words of Burke : " chaff and rags and paltry blurred shreds of 
paper about the rights of men;" but nothing can ever be set 
over against itself without losing substance, without becoming 
only phenomenalistic and fictitious. Similarly — that is, under 
the same conditions and with the same result — the extreme 
mechanicalism was meeting creation with causation. In Hobbes' 
commonwealth, too, which he defines as " one person of whose 
acts a great multitude by mutual covenant, one with another, 
have made themselves, everyone the author, to the end that he 
may use the strength and means of them all as he shall think 



586 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

expedient for their peace and common defense," we see might 
or " strength" set against itself, for primarily the defense desired 
by the people is against their own lawlessness ; and, in general, 
under the contract theory might, the very source and support of 
absolutism, is used to counteract itself. So is the theory an 
accurate report of its time. Politically, however, as well as 
physically, action and reaction, might and its resistance in kind, 
are equal ; and through their equation law succeeds force 
in authority, naturalism supplanting absolutism. Law, not 
might, makes right. And Rousseau's contract, accordingly, 
whatever his timely way of referring to it, was in reality no magic 
instrument, but, as said above, his " fictitious way of declaring 
with Locke that even in a state of nature man is rational and 
sanctions law and society." * 

Of course, Rousseau's position, and in greater or less degree 
also that of Hobbes or Locke, was equivocal even to the point 
of paradox, but this only adds to its meaning. Thus they advo- 
cated naturalism supernaturalistically ; they based law on brute 
force ; they thought of the people as making a law that could 
not be broken ; they derived an indivisible sovereignty from an 
unsocial, individualistic humanity. But a fiction is always a 
paradox also. Simply fiction and paradox are marks of transi- 
tion and conflict. They show that thought and the life which 
thought reports are outgrowing accustomed forms, the accus- 
tomed forms — to use again the trite metaphor — being only old 
bottles for new wine. Fictions, in the sense of validating prin- 
ciples, are always " old bottles." The equivocation, moreover, 
or the duplicity of the contract theory must be the historian's 

1 The foregoing discussion seems to me to show the proper way — proper because it 
is historically as well as logically accurate — in which to meet the principle that " might 
makes right." Thus, with some repetition, might when asserted does and must 
induce resistance in kind ; whence, action and reaction being equal, law instead of 
might makes right, for the equation means conservation and law — witness its import 
to physics — in whatever sphere it applies to. Or, again, in terms more directly 
political, might cannot be asserted without some delegation of power ; but delega- 
tion is always limitation, and delegation and limitation, like action and reaction, are 
equal, so that absolute monarchy, founded on might, turns as if from its own weight 
into democracy, founded on a constitution — that is, on law natural to the life of 
society. The social-contract theory, then, marks the change, the turning. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 587 

best key to the times from which the theory sprang, for there is 
nothing like duplicity to make heated controversy. Duplicity has 
the effect of putting both sides in the right, of making both share 
in what is right, so that I might venture to say that any historian 
who wishes to explain a critical conflict in human progress must 
fail utterly if he cannot detect a shared duplicity, although a 
duplicity maintained from its different sides, in the positions of 
the contestants. The history of the United States is a pertinent 
case, for, as has been said, the contract theory — notably in 
the form given by Locke — was most influential at the begin- 
ning and has played an important part ever since. In an illu- 
minating article, " The Compact Theory and Constitutional 
Construction," recently contributed by my colleague, Professor 
Andrew C. McLaughlin, the great controversies of American 
history are shown to have involved the contract theory, and Pro- 
fessor McLaughlin is not blind to what I have called the "shared 
duplicity " of opponents. 1 Calhoun, for example, is shown more 
than once to have contradicted himself, or to have said one thing 
and meant another, his defense of state rights by appeal to an 
indivisible sovereignty being a boomerang of the first power. 
He claimed for the state only what his opponents were claiming 
for the federation, and so, in spite of his leaning to the individ- 
ualism of the contract theory, he was contributing to the devel- 
opment of the organic, the wholly naturalistic theory which has 
supplanted, or is supplanting, that of contract. Good history, I 
repeat, when it deals with conflicts, particularly with great epoch- 
making conflicts, consists in showing that opponents are double, 
that is, as much in conflict with themselves as with each other. 

So, to continue, both Locke and Rousseau, to say no more 
of their great forerunner Thomas Hobbes, were philosophers of 
revolution ; Locke by separating the state and the government 
as end and means respectively, and basing only the government 
on contract, on an amendable contract ; Rousseau by virtually 
reducing the contract that makes the state — not the government 
— to a mere fiction, to a pure principle ; and both by the possi- 
bilities which they realized for emphasis by later thinkers. And 

"See American Historical Review, April, 1900. 



588 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

to speak further of the difference between Locke's contract and 
Rousseau's, this seems to me quite parallel to that, which was 
developing at the same time, between a particular scientific law, 
always only a working hypothesis, and the validating principle, 
for example, the law of the uniformity of nature, which nobody 

— it is worth remarking for the benefit of Bluntschli — ever at 
any particular time discovered among the things of experience. 
The sympathy of Kant, the philosopher of validating principles 

— or "fictions" or "categories" — with Rousseau is well known. 
The radical character, moreover, of the standpoint of any of 
them — of Locke, Rousseau, or Kant — can be seen in the fact that 
naturally, that is, logically, it was contemporary with the develop- 
ment of the idea — what shall I say? — of a reserved possibility, 
an immanent potentiality in all things. 1 A science of working 
hypotheses and only formal principles was witness to a mov- 
ing experience, that is to say, to an intimacy between knowl- 
edge and life, and an amendable contract or constitution or a 
"responsible" government meant social and political evolution. 
For both Locke and Rousseau, then, as has already been asserted 
more or less directly, the real state, the state to which man 
owed his final and unhesitating allegiance, was identical with the 
fact, the natural and original fact, of society ; in short, with 
humanity at large. It is true that such early advocates of the 
naturalistic theory as Burke — formerly mentioned here — and 
Blackstone were opposed to the contract theory, but for the 
reasons that have now been given I have to think of them as not 
less interpreters of the theory than opponents of it. 2 They have 

■Compare the vitesse virtuelle of John Bernoulli (1667-1748) in the history of 
mechanics. Compare also the monadology of Leibnitz (1646-1716) with its ascrip- 
tion of self-activity to substance. 

2 Pollock, in his History of the Science of Politics, chap, v, says of Blackstone : 
" He distinctly refuses to believe in the ' state of nature ' as a historical fact, and 
thereby avoids a difficulty which Locke had palliated rather than met by ingenious 
but weak excuses. ' Society has not its formal beginning from any convention of 
individuals.' Blackstone treats the family as the unit of society, and reduces the 
original contract, though he does not abandon the term, to the fact that men hold 
together in society because they cannot help it." For Blackstone surely the origi- 
nal social contract which rescued men from a state of nature can be but a legal 
fiction. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 589 

helped to interpret it to itself, to turn it over, to uncover the 
virtual naturalism of it. 

About the conception of the state as original and natural, 
instead of artificial or supernatural, the organic theory revolves. 
For this theory the contract is only mediative or definitive in 
the fullest sense ; it is not creative. Our present task, then, is 
to examine carefully the character of its mediation. 

Accordingly, to begin the examination with a discussion that 
may seem even irrelevant to those who are disposed to look 
askance at the excursions of philosophy, the function of the 
social contract is quite akin to that of language. Indeed, to 
answer at once the possible charge of irrelevancy, language is 
distinctly a social institution, perhaps the social institution, and 
like any social institution it always implies contract even when 
it does not formally embody it. Implicitly, too, when not 
explicitly, it embodies authority in the way that makes govern- 
ment. Language, then, which in days gone by has also been 
viewed from a creationalistic standpoint — witness the belief in a 
language-giver, in language as heaven-sent, or the notion that 
creatures using language are of a peculiar order, being extra- 
natural, or the doctrine of verbal inspiration, or the superstitions 
about occult powers in words and phrases — is now very gener- 
ally regarded only naturalistically ; and this is very materially 
to change the character of the contract in it. Thus language is 
no longer the repository of a fixed truth or the seat of any 
mysterious power ; it is the medium only of a thought that lives 
in and with the whole life of mankind ; and it is original, being as 
much a condition as a result of conscious life, and above all mark- 
ing no distinctions in kind among living creatures. Its mediation, 
moreover, is threefold : ( 1 ) between the manifold experiences 
of any individual addicted to its use, one's language always 
being through the process of association only a focus of one's 
entire experience; (2) between the experiences of many indi- 
viduals or groups of individuals, language also always serving as 
a means of social communication; and (3) between the experi- 
ences of humanity at large and the life as a whole, in a word, 
nature itself, to which men belong, language being always 



590 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

descriptive, objectively descriptive ; and then, as of greatest 
importance, it never exercises any one of these special functions 
without in corresponding degrees exercising both of the others. 
Undoubtedly, the fullest significance of this conception of lan- 
guage will be lost to those who forget, even in the face of evo- 
lution and of the schools for the blind and the mute, and of the 
supremacy of the natural sciences and laboratory methods in 
the curricula of our schools, that language and its mediation are 
coextensive with consciousness. All conscious creatures, low or 
high, are addicted to what is language essentially. Indeed 
there is, for modern science — and this is to say also for modern 
life — a universal language, namely, the common mediating envi- 
ronment of all living beings. Moreover, this common environ- 
ment, besides being or because being the universal language, is 
also the ultimate social contract, the ultimate embodiment of 
authority, the ultimate government ; and to it anyone who 
would understand the contract theory must give thoughtful 
attention. 

In the years of the decline of Greek civilization, when indi- 
vidualism and an accompanying cosmopolitanism and naturalism 
were characteristic attitudes of the people, when there was both 
hidden and open treachery to the long-standing institutions, 
political and religious, of Greek life, the contract theory of 
society — perhaps for the first time — was enunciated, 1 and it 
must give value to the foregoing reference to language to 
remember that at the same time among the Greeks language 
had become, or was becoming, little better than a convention, a 
form with little or no substance, through which treacherous indi- 
viduals could keep up the conceit of a social relationship. How 
ingenious their statesmen, their politicians, were at verbal gym- 
nastics we know very well, and even puns were arguments with 
their professional philosophers, the Sophists. In time, too, the 
very names of the gods were not spared. What, then, more 
natural than that, as language, which is the most general medium 
of a social life, became thus formal and empty, a social contract 

1 See Plato's Republic, II, 359 (Jowett's translations, third edition, Vol. Ill, p. 
38 ; Da vies and Vaughn's translation, p. 41). 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 591 

theory, making society and justice the mere afterthought of 
individuals, should have found expression ? It is true that 
there was another side to Greek life, that with the growing for- 
malism the barriers between Greek and barbarian, as if between 
civilized man and natural man, were breaking down, and that the 
Sophists and politicians brought the Socratic philosophers and 
Alexander with them ; but already we have seen that the con- 
tract theory also has another side. In many respects, too, as is 
often recognized by historians, the time of Hobbes, Locke, and 
Rousseau was like that of the Sophists and Socrates. A time 
of transition and revolution ? Yes ; and also a time when lan- 
guage, not to mention other social institutions, or even not to 
mention environment at large, was become formal and mechani- 
cal. Latin was dead, or at least on its death-bed, rapidly losing 
its hold upon life except as a church ritual or a school discipline ; 
and, although a new literature, a new poetry, was developing, 
this had its hard conflict with the mechanical ingenuity and 
offensive lucidity of Pope in England and the inventions from 
flourishing schools of poetry in France, method — as is natural 
for a time of great changes — superseding depth of meaning in 
importance ; and with this modern emphasis on method, as with 
the ancient, society was naturally supposed to be due to con- 
tract, the social relation to be external to individual experiences, 
mere legality to be an end in itself. Everything was thought 
to be acquired; a rational education could do anything, even 
make genius. The literary formalism, however, had its own 
corrective, for, in the first place, it was applied to the national 
languages, which superseded Latin, and such application could 
not but end by making the externalism, the supernaturalism ficti- 
tious, by turning it into naturalism, bringing language, the 
medium of the social life, into living relation with the experi- 
ences of the people. Thus the respect that we have today for 
dialects is but a fuller development of this movement begun in 
the early days of the modern contract theory. And, in the 
second place, a literary formalism, in which a particular language 
lost sanctity, gave rise, not merely to a group of living national 
languages, but also to an extension of the idea of language 



592 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

itself over the whole field of consciousness.' To this extension 
as belonging to modern thought reference was made above, and 
with peculiar significance to our present interest we find the 
promise, if not the actual fulfillment, of it even in Locke, to 
whom Professor McLaughlin aptly ascribes a "compact psychol- 
ogy" as well as a compact political philosophy. 2 Thus, Locke's 
nominalism was no mediseval scholasticism, nurtured in the clois- 
tered abstraction of ancient texts ; rather it was a doctrine of 
sensations in general as well as of words, of man as thinking or as 
being self-conscious in environment at large as well as in written 
or spoken language ; so that a doughtier advocate of naturalism 
than Locke himself would be hard to find. In both psychology 
and literature, then, formalism brought the call for a return to 
nature, and it is hardly necessary to add that the naturalism so 
arising was identical with that which we saw to emerge from the 
political theory of contract. 

But more direct than any historical analogies or than 
parallels of any sort is the fact that the same threefold media- 
tion which today language is recognized as exercising has 
belonged to the social contract, more narrowly conceived, that 
is, to any political constitution of modern times. The conditions 
of the quasi-contract, in language or in natural environment, 
have actually been consciously recognized and formulated in 
modern constitutions. Thus, with the rise and evolution of the 
contract theory, and this is to say, with the rise and evolution of 
constitutional governments, political life, changing from abso- 
lute monarchy to limited monarchy, or even to avowed democ- 
racy, has developed very positively along the lines (i) of 
personal and national individuality, (2) of national and inter- 
national organization, and (3) of an industrial life which has 

" Illustrations of the implicit, when not open, extension of the idea of language 
are to be found, not merely in the doctrine of evolution, in the schools for the blind 
and the mute, in the rise of the natural sciences and of laboratory methods, but also 
in the invention of elaborate notations and terminologies, particularly among the 
sciences, even including formal logic, and in such changes in practical affairs as that 
in religion from church and book to home and man, and that in civic life from no 
diversion for the people beyond verbal direction of all kinds to diversion also through 
open museums and public parks, all nature becoming a medium of man's rational life. 

* Op. cit., p. 467, note. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 593 

relied upon man's success in identifying himself with nature, 
animate and inanimate, that is to say, in identifying his activity 
with her processes and forces ; and these lines of development 
are inseparable, and mark the threefold mediation of the social 
contract. Above the fact that the state is natural and original, 
not external and artificial, was referred to as the center of the 
organic theory, so that these incidents of modern political evo- 
lution, namely individualism, organism, and industrialism, may 
be regarded as three determining points in the theory's circum- 
ference, and with the consideration of them it is my purpose to 
conclude the present analysis of the conception of an organic 
state. 

So, to begin with, no idea has been more central or more 
fundamental in the constitutions of modern Christendom than 
that of the equality of men, of a common human nature, of a 
human nature that is prior to and independent of any special 
political machinery, the equal man being always the natural 
man, man in a "state of nature;" and also, as a matter of 
course, no idea has been more central or more fundamental in 
the contract theory. Recall the doctrine of natural rights, 
Burke's tirade against the " paltry blurred shreds of paper about 
the rights of man," the Declaration of Independence, and the 
preamble to the constitution of the United States. Moreover, 
equality has been no vain sentiment, no mere idea, for it has 
liberated individual persons and whole peoples ; it has limited 
monarchs and founded democracies ; it has made international 
law, and was, indeed, long ago recognized, notably by Hugo de 
Groot in 1625, as the basis of such law; and it has turned mili- 
tarism and feudalism into the independence of modern labor. 
Indeed, in it alone we can see the threefold mediation, the 
individualism, the organism, and the industrialism, of the social 
contract. Additional analysis, however, and illustration will not 
be impertinent. 

Equality, like the theory in which we find it, is thoroughly 
ambiguous ; it has all the character of a fiction. One might 
very easily argue that if all men were literally equal monarchy 
would be the most natural form of political authority, since any 



594 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

single individual could adequately represent all ; but this only 
suggests that the doctrine of equality really means the partici- 
pation of all in what is indeed a common life, that is, a life 
single and indivisible, but in what has been also a life requiring 
and recognizing individual differentiation. Equality, as a con- 
dition actual in a society whose members are living wholly as if 
in another world, a spiritual somewhere, where the differences 
of earth are as nothing, does justify monarchy ; it justifies mon- 
archy by heavenly sanction and worldly might ; but the modern 
doctrine of equality, instead of being an unworldly, spiritual 
apology for the differences of this earthly life, has been a 
demand for the mediation of differences, always affording a 
ground upon which men or states could agree to differ. It has 
meant, not monarchy, life in another world, and militarism, but 
community of opportunity, or right of personal or national 
individuality, division of labor, the organization of differences; 
and to argue from it, as men are doing constantly, now to 
extreme communalism and now to extreme individualism, may 
be to emphasize its fictitious character or its ambiguity, but it is 
not to appreciate its whole meaning. Community of property, 
for example, as if a corollary from the doctrine of equality, 
really means, not a literally common ownership of all things, 
separately or collectively, but an organized ownership, that is, 
an individual ownership which has sanction only in social utility, 
exactly as is implied in division of labor, free trade, and the 
like. And for further evidence of the significance of equality 
consider how the right of constitutional amendment, the pro- 
vision for recognition or representation of minorities, the insti- 
tution of equity in jurisprudence, 1 and the conception of an 
indivisible sovereignty, which are all necessary in a social con- 
tract, and no one of which is wholly neglected in any modern 
constitution, are at once sanctions of differentiation in the life 
of humanity and conclusions from the principle of equality. 
As has been indicated already, the rise of limited monarchies, 

1 The courts in equity had their origin in the King's Bench, in the legal supremacy 
of the sovereign, and they have always given elasticity to the law, involving a more 
or less conscious appeal from legal to natural rights. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 595 

that is, of constitutional governments, and the development of 
an international life have been contemporaneous, and it is now 
conclusively evident that the bond of association has been the 
appeal to the equal or natural man, an appeal which has as once 
differentiated and organized the life of humanity. Usually we 
are told that the monarch is limited, because the sovereignty 
really belongs to his people, but this is not the whole truth. 
Always there are interests among the people that make them 
consciously subject to the life of humanity at large, so that a limited 
monarchy, a constitutional government, is never without positive 
foreign relations and responsibilities, and this is to say that consti- 
tutionalism really implies that all men feel themselves the subjects 
of one political union, as if a universal state — an implication that 
is, of course, all-important to the organic theory. The equal, 
natural man is necessarily an international man, so that, as Hugo 
de Groot forcibly stated the case, even in times of war between 
nations there are certain interests, certain relations among men, 
with reference to which peace continues ; for example, the rela- 
tions of commerce. Similarly Locke, for whom peace and 
society were original and natural, found an illustration of his 
"state of nature" in the society of nations. 

In the conception of the indivisibility of sovereignty, however, 
already mentioned as a conclusion from the doctrine of equality, 
and mentioned also as a bone of doubtful or ambiguous contention 
between Calhoun and his opponents, the idea of a universal or 
international state is presented in a still more striking way. To 
defend state rights by appeal to indivisibility was gross abuse of 
the idea, for with reference to political bodies as well as to lines 
or planes or things animate or inanimate it is not to be gainsaid 
that if a part is indivisible the whole must be indivisible also, or, 
conversely, that to isolate a part, to treat it as absolutely inde- 
pendent, as in secession, is at once to divide it, to destroy its 
own inner unity. To speak quite abstractly and symbolically, 
both A and not-A are divisible, that is, without unity, for both 
must be finite, each being limited by the other and so not self- 
sufficient. Only the self-sufficient is indivisible. Individuality, 
then, of state or of person or of thing, does in truth mean 



596 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

indivisibility, but it does not and cannot mean independence or 
isolation ; and this, to repeat, for the simple reason that isola- 
tion — or negation — makes inner as well as outer division. So, 
to return, in the very indivisibility of sovereignty is evidence of 
an international state. 

But, further, the rise of individual constitutional governments 
and of an accompanying international life, the equal natural man 
or the indivisibility of sovereignty being the bond that associates 
the two, has brought with it one change that is most significant 
and that needs now to be pointed out. David Hume, living 
between 171 1 and 1776, certainly an important period in politi- 
cal evolution, has often been criticised for advancing the police 
theory of government. " We are to look upon all the vast appa- 
ratus of our government as having ultimately no other object or 
purpose than the distribution of justice, or, in other words, the 
support of the twelve judges. Kings and parliaments, fleets and 
armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, ministers 
and privy councilors, are all subordinate in the end to this part 
of administration." So writes Hume. 1 Perhaps his meaning 
was not all that I am disposed to make it. History, however, 
is always the best test of meaning, and history shows at least that 
Hume "builded better than he knew." Thus, taken in connec- 
tion with the views, notably the laissez-faire economics, of his 
friend and contemporary Adam Smith, or in connection with the 
positive political events of the period, the police theory of govern- 
ment was quite timely, since it meant simply that the business 
of government is not to make the laws, but only to know and 
interpret and to execute them. Under a constitutional govern- 
ment, as we have ourselves concluded from the inner meaning 
of the contract theory, upon which constitutionalism is estab- 
lished, the actual making of law is nature's, not man's ; and, 
quite apart from conclusions and inner meanings, do but consider 
in the actual practice of modern governments how important 
the bureaus of information, the records and reports of all kinds, 
the special committees and commissions, have become. All of 
these are devices by which governments show themselves only 
1 Essay on the Origin of Government. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY $97 

learners, not makers of law, or by which, again, they are able to 
formulate the law that the life of society discloses. Simply, 
then, because law is nature's, not man's, or man's only as man is 
himself natural ; or, more particularly, because in Hume's day 
nature's laws were so much in evidence, government appeared 
to Hume as peculiarly judicial and executive instead of legisla- 
tive. Moreover, virtually if not literally, history has justified 
Hume's contention, for political evolution from monarchical to 
democratic institutions seems to have proceeded on the principle 
that in a known law of nature man has had more certainty of 
freedom than in any whim of his own. In short, Hume's police 
theory of government was only his blind way of seeing 
democracy ; a way, however, that was hardly unnatural to the 
times, and that is fairly true to English political history in general, 
so devoted to an unconfessed democracy. What wonder that 
Hume's great biographer, Huxley, finds in his theories "a very 
remarkable example of political sagacity." But now, forgetting 
Hume, let us apply what he has taught us to our present purposes, 
and in the first place remember that we have found the "social 
contract" to be in effect only an abstraction or fiction for natural 
law, and then recognize that the now generally admitted duty of 
governments to know the natural law in the life of the people 
is one of the strongest forces in the evolution of an organic state 
or of an international union, and also — since conditions do make 
theories — in the rise and development of the organic theory. 

Conditions do make theories, although in a sense theories 
are often in advance of conditions. Theories may reveal and 
formulate unconscious, or, to speak more strictly, unconfessed, 
or only indirectly confessed, practice. For example, again with 
reference to national and international life, the organic theory 
implies, or even avows, the coextension of the territories and 
histories of all nations. Mathematically, 1 of course, this is 

1 " Mathematically," unless one goes behind the returns of mathematics and finds 
in the science something more than quantities or than quantitative abstractions. 
Quantitatively it is absurd to speak of the coextension of parts, spatial or temporal, 
geographical or historical ; but qualitatively it almost goes without saying. Not stati- 
cally, but actively or dynamically, parts, that is, territories or histories, are coextensive, 
and he who runs may read this even in mathematics. Indeed, the calculus, dependent 



598 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

something of a paradox, and politically it is likely to seem even an 
untruth ; but that such coextension is a condition, and at least a 
half-confessed practice as well as a theory of our time, can be 
shown in many ways. Thus the importance of travel and com- 
munication to modern life indicates that the nations are using 
each other's resources and even living within each other's bor- 
ders. Commercial and industrial exchange is further evidence ; 
and division of labor, also, so closely involved in these. And the 
familiar fact that no nation nowadays really thinks of its history 
as beginning with the time of its formal incorporation speaks 
volumes for the unity of man's political experience. The terri- 
tory of all nations is one territory. The history of all nations 
is one history. This coextension, however, of histories and 
territories must not be understood to mean that under the 
organic theory a nation is not to be limited to certain geograph- 
ical boundaries and in its activity to be included within a certain 
period of time, but — since the very geographical and historical 
limitations imply relation, not isolation — this instead. Mere 
possession of territory, whatever the bounds or mere existence 
through time, however long the interval, is no justification of 
nationality. To get and to hold territory is not to become or 
remain a nation. Such would, indeed, be the case, were the state 
really an imposition, whether through a creative compact or 
through any supernatural agency ; but, the state being rooted in 
nature, territorial and historical individuality cannot but mean 
unity with all that is without, that is to say, vital participation in 
the acquired property and the historical experience of all 
peoples, and only as such unity is recognized and served is an 
individual nation justified. Under the organic theory resources 
secured through possession must be used, not merely held, and 
used consistently with the life and experience of all. Failure 
in such use justifies war and even conquest. 

So much, then, for the individualism and organism, the 

on the infinitesimal, which is a negation of quantity, really means nothing else ; 
and the rise of the calculus contemporaneously with that of the contract theory, or, as 
the same thing, of constitutionalism and internationalism, was no mere accident. 
Even the history of mathematics is alive ; in it one can find the history of civilization, 
if one will but look. 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 599 

nationalism and internationalism, of the organic theory, which is 
also the theory of the only mediative social contract. The 
third determining point of the theory's circumference, namely, 
industrialism, remains to be considered, and in this the media- 
tion of the social contract is to be seen as peculiarly between 
man and nature, although personal and national unity and inter- 
national unity are hardly less clearly manifest in it. Indeed, 
that industrialism means internationalism is one of the common- 
places of the day, and that it depends on personal and national 
competition, on personal and national individuality, is also very 
generally recognized ; but with peculiar significance the rise of 
industrialism has involved the appeal, which we have found 
really to underlie the contract theory, from the human to the 
natural. Man has appealed to nature in order to escape from 
himself, from the tyranny of his own nature, from despotism and 
militarism, believing, as was said above, that in a known law of 
nature he had more assurance of freedom than in any whim of 
his own, and in industrialism, so constantly dependent on 
machinery, on the mechanical application of natural resources to 
human ends, the appeal has been brought to earth, exemplified 
and progressively satisfied. Nor is machinery the only evidence 
of industrial man's resort to nature. In the growing demand for 
popular education — a demand that has required ever more and 
more modern language and natural science and technical train- 
ing for the curricula of the schools ; in the growth of religious 
freedom ; in the recognition of social responsibility for crime ; in 
the idea of property as not treasure but power, and of the right 
to property as springing from use, not from mere possession ; in 
denial of the privilege of inheritance of acquired station or 
acquired wealth ; in the increased means of all kinds of exchange 
and transportation; and, finally — to mention something already 
referred to in another relation — in the increasing emphasis on 
the purely advisory and formulative character of legislation ; in 
all these different ways, more or less directly associated with the 
passage out of militarism into industrialism, an appeal to nature 
is manifest ; and from them, as so many additional premises, one 
must conclude the unity of man and nature, so essential to the 



600 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 

organic theory of society. Simply it is not necessary to rely on 
biology for a justification of political theory, perhaps because 
political theory is biological in its own right. 

The special importance and influence of machinery in the life 
of society need not be dwelt upon ; but very briefly, indeed so 
briefly as probably to seem apocalyptic, I would suggest that 
the invention and the use of machinery have had a relation to 
the contract theory in a way which is full of interest. Thus, in 
the first place, as with every other term, machinery as a fact and 
its use as an attitude among men are much more general and 
fundamental in modern life than the ordinary applications of the 
word imply ; and, in the second place, the original social contract, 
in so far as only a formal principle or fiction, or, in other words, 
as only an indirection for the rational and essentially law- 
respecting character of natural man, does but give to man a 
thoroughly mechanicalistic view of his environment. According 
to the contract theory, at least as we have come to interpret it, 
natural man is freed from implicit subjection to any formulated 
law, whether in science, religion, or political life, but only to be in 
turn subjected to the institutions of nature. Even his own institu- 
tions he comes to regard naturalistically, that is, as only locally 
and temporally significant. This, however, is not all ; or, rather, in 
this lies something more. Not merely is man subject only to the 
mechanism of nature, but also because the law by which he 
judges or measures her is a merely formal principle, being, in so 
far as having any particular content, only a working hypothesis, 
the nature that rules him is a moving, which is to say, an evolv- 
ing or productive, mechanism, assuming ever new and more 
effective forms ; and man, accordingly, is a mechanic, not a 
soldier. Here my simple words — law only a formal principle, 
nature a moving and productive mechanism, and man a mechanic, 
not a soldier — are, indeed, almost apocalyptic, being overloaded 
with meaning ; politically even with the meaning of the French 
Revolution, which enacted so faithfully Rousseau's call for a 
return to nature and showed so clearly the institutions of the 
social life, the guillotine among others, moving productively, that 
is, made useful for the establishment of a new order, for the 



ORGANIC THEORY OF SOCIETY 6oi 

production of new interests and new machinery ; and industrially 
with the meaning of the factory, or of our industrial institutions 
generally, by which the controlled power of nature is working a 
constant instead of a violent revolution, an evolution, in human 
life ; but fullness of meaning, even if what is commonplace has 
to be overloaded, is the business of philosophy. The French 
Revolution, then, so true to the meaning of the contract theory 
and so truly only a violent symptom of a condition permeating 
all Christendom, has been exemplified and justified in what we 
know so familiarly as the "wheels of industry;" but these 
"wheels," let us keep in mind, since here they must refer to all 
the devices by which nature is made to do man's work, are politi- 
cal as well as industrial, being in ways that need not be enumer- 
ated, not only makers, but also judges and executors of our 
laws. The French Revolution is with us still, as industrial evo- 
lution. 

So, finally, life or movement, not established law, is the true 
basis of society. This, it is hardly necessary to say, is a part of the 
organic theory, and also it is the final meaning of the contract the- 
ory. Industrialism as uniting man and nature, organism or inter- 
nationalism as uniting man and man, and individualism as uniting 
each and every other part of man, have been our witnesses to the 
threefold mediation of the social contract, or to the roundness 
and completeness of the organic theory of society ; and in them 
all we can see, or from them all we must conclude, that society 
is a life, not a fixed condition ; a movement, not a creation of 
special time or place. Life, movement, is contract. The original 
social contract we have called a fiction, only a validating prin- 
ciple ; yet wisely, for in the light of modern thought it is but a 
lawyer's or historian's abstraction for something that underlies 
society, and that has no date or origin in history, for the fact of 
the life, which is the unity of society. Since the formulation of 
the contract theory there has been meaning in the words "social 
development." 

A. H. Lloyd. 

The University of Michigan.